The pianist here with two thirds of Zed-U: bassist Neil Charles, who first surfaced on another significant debut, Empirical’s; and drummer Tom Skinner, better known these days as a member of Sons of Kemet.
All the compositions are Hawkins’, the album recorded very warmly by Ben Lamdin at London studio Fish Factory in a single day during the latter half of October 2014. ‘Sweet Duke’, ‘Song Singular - Owl (friendly) - Canon,’ ‘One Tree Found,’ ‘Perhaps 5 or 6 Different Colours,’ ‘40HB (for Taylor Ho Bynum),’ ‘AHRA,’ ‘Baobabs + SGrA*’ and ‘Blue Notes for a Blue Note (Joy To You)’ are the tunes.
The first and third compositions are adaptations from a larger ensemble work commissioned by the BBC, and three of the later tracks were commissioned by the London Jazz Festival and first performed at the festival in 2013. Hawkins can’t be said to be a stylist, he passed that stage long ago. But it would take a forensic and possibly futile examination of some musicological complexity to trace all the influences he has drawn on to apparently consciously unlearn but sometimes yes you’ll hear faint traces of a Vijay Iyer approach, sometimes a little Monk in the language (‘One Tree Found’ for instance although it certainly isn’t obvious on a first listen). And even though Hawkins really likes Sun Ra and plays Ra tunes from time to time at concerts he doesn’t sound like Ra either. Sometimes there are hints of older styles too but the Oxford-born player doesn’t break into Stride or anything like that. That would be too obvious. And it’s surprising how unlike say Cecil Taylor Hawkins is in full flow even though this album exists at the freer end of the spectrum (it shows how big that space is only opened up in the first place thanks to the octogenarian’s innovations). All in all a very stimulating album that reveals new delights the more you immerse yourself in its many layers of abstraction.